Last year, Kareem Hunt shocked the world by leading the NFL in rushing yardage as a rookie. Can he build off that incredible first impression?
Kareem Hunt is obviously a talented player. He finished first in rushing yards on 272 carries in 2017, carrying the ball fewer times than five other qualified running backs.
For reference, Le’Veon Bell, who is widely considered the best running back in football had 321 carries for 1,291 yards. That is 49 more carries than Kareem Hunt for 36 less yards. While Bell had a lot of receptions last season, there is no question that Hunt was the most dominant rushing running back in football last season.
Hunt averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season, with his best asset being the ability to break tackles. He is the ideal power back because he seemingly always falls forward for extra yards and is difficult to bring down with one tackler. He rarely fumbles the football and can take a lot of punishment.
While Hunt is an unbelievably gifted player, he isn’t a great fantasy football option for this season. It sounds crazy, but there are a lot reasons to believe Hunt will not produce the same numbers as last season.
This offseason has been interesting for the Chiefs. The front office made some moves that were expected, and some that weren’t. The obvious move was the promotion of Patrick Mahomes to starting quarterback. The team decided to trade Alex Smith to Washington after sitting Mahomes for the 2017 season. This is significant because of how different his style of play is, opposed to Smith’s.
In a more surprising move, the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins to a big three-year deal. This was unexpected for many because of the talent they had with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The addition of Watkins may symbolize a serious change in the offensive scheme.
Reid is known for his high number of passing attempts. Much of Reid’s offense relies on short and intermediate passes. With Smith at the helm, Hunt was utilized as the number one option at running back. With Mahomes, expect a completely different kind of offense. Reid is known for taking formations and ideas from his quarterback’s college team and implementing the same ideals into his playbook.
For Smith, there was a lot of pistol formation and pre-snap reads. Reid used Smith’s high football IQ and his careful style of play to the team’s advantage. With Mahomes, expect something completely different.
Mahomes went to Texas Tech which is well-known for the “Air Raid” offense. The Chiefs will likely attempt to push the football down the field with Mahomes at quarterback. Furthermore, in many of spread formations utilized by an “Air Raid” offense, there are two running back sets. It is likely that the Chiefs opt to pass the football more in these formations. I believe it is also more likely that the team uses more running backs in this system. This limits Hunt’s overall production.
Spencer Ware’s return
Before going down with injury in the preseason last year, Ware was the team’s number one running back. Many people forget about how good Ware was before his injury. In 14 games, he rushed 214 times for 921 yards in 2016. In the last seven games of the 2016 season, Ware rushed for 4.7 yards per carry.
Ware is a very powerful back that possesses good receiving skills out of the backfield. In past Chiefs offenses, Ware has been used as the power back. With the emergence of Hunt it will be interesting to see how each running back it is utilized.
Expect Hunt to receive the bulk of the carries, Ware will receive more carries than past Chiefs No. 2 running backs have.
Despite Hunt’s great season last year, he is not a great fantasy option this year.
With Mahomes at the helm, Reid’s play-calling, and Ware’s return, Hunt’s fantasy value may plummet this season. Hunt may have a lot of yards per carry, but will see fewer carries. His rushing yards will dip as well as his fantasy point total. When one looks at this offense for a fantasy football contributor, consider pass-catchers.
The Chiefs will pass the football a lot this season and running backs will split more touches. Hunt is not a bad fantasy option. However, he is likely to take a huge step back this season.